Review: The China Study | An Eye-Opening Read on Nutrition and Food Habits

the china study

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
Published: September 2001
Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads | Bookdepository

SummaryIn The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The report also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and opportunistic scientists. The New York Times has recognized the study as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.” The China Study is not a diet book. Dr. Campbell cuts through the haze of misinformation and delivers an insightful message to anyone living with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and those concerned with the effects of aging.


I have always been a meat-eater. In the traditional kitchen in Belgium, I think meat and dairy is served with most meals. And I have always thought it to be normal. I never thought I could adopt a vegan or plant based lifestyle. I have drastically changed my eating habits though, while and after reading this. Let me tell you why. 

I am a very logical person. And a skeptical one. If I am to change my habits or reasoning, I need to have proof as to why. I need evidence and science to convince me. Once I have done enough research, I can start to form my own opinions and look at what is in front of me critically. That’s how I form my opinions. I’ve always been convinced that if you’re not well enough informed about a topic, you should not join a discussion about it. Educate yourself first, so you can reason with others.

I’d been interested in the topic of nutrition for a while, and this book comes highly recommended. I follow quite a few YouTubers who are vegan (and make What I Eat In a Day videos) and most of them recommend this book in the description box. So I decided to give it a go. 

My first critical inquiry related to the author. If I was expected to trust this man’s findings and research, I need to know about his education. I was relieved to learn that T. Colin Campbell has a PhD in nutrition, biochemistry and microbiology. That I find trust worthy. A scientist. This book was co-authored with his son, Thomas Campbell, a medical doctor. This is intriguing to me as well because now we have both information from an MD, and a guy with a PhD in nutrition. 

I was baffled by this book. Truly. It’s divided into several parts. In the first few, you get to learn about his start in nutritional studies, and the actual China Study. They talk about their findings, what they researched, how they did it, and so on. I find all this information very helpful, because it makes me trust the source more. Then in the next part, the authors explain how our Western world is ruled by these dairy and meat industries, and that even a government helps them. To me, that sounded like a conspiracy theory. But I have to be honest, I’m going to look into it more. This book is told mostly in application to Americans. It compares their health rates, their government and industries, etc. So I’m interested in looking up all this stuff relating to the EU. 

Here are some of the main findings of the research. If you want to know more, or how they researched, then you’ll have to read the book (it’s really not that long).

  • Casein (the main protein in cow’s milk) causes liver cancer. When they did a study with two groups of rats, and fed one group a diet with 20% casein and the other a diet with 5%, after a certain amount of time, all the rats from the first group died from cancer. All of the rats from the second group were alive and healthy. Crazy, right?
  • In the Western world, the majority dies from diseases from affluence like heart disease, liver cancer, and so on. In China, the percentage of people dying from said diseases is far lower. This was found to be because: Chinese people eat a diet mainly consisting of plant-based food and protein while the Western diet mainly focuses on animal foods and protein. 
  • The difference wasn’t genetic, because those Chinese people who moved to the US and adapted their diet to the Western one had the same disease rates as the other Americans. Genes don’t adapt that quickly. 
  • Multiple diseases like liver cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, heart disease can be prevented by eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. 
  • Even diseases like MS, dementia and Alzheimer’s could be slowed down by adapting the diet into a whole foods, plant-based one. I do say, slowed down because there is no cure for these diseases. Yet. 
  • An experiment with people who had already suffered from a heart attack showed the following: the group that didn’t adapt their diet aside from the general recommendations by doctors all died after a few years. The people who adopted a whole foods plant-based diet instead, were almost all still alive AND had less symptoms than before their heart attack!
  • The evidence for these nutritional values and benefits is only valid for nutrients that come from the whole food you’ve eaten. Not for supplements.

I’m going to be honest, I’m a skeptic at heart. I need proof. Otherwise it’s all just mumbo-jumbo to me (did I make that word up?). But this book referenced so many different studies on nutrition and the animal based vs plant based diets! I didn’t even have a clue so many studies were conducted on the topic! WHY ARE NONE OF US TAUGHT THIS? If it can prevent so many diseases? 

Anyway, I have changed my eating habits drastically. I still haven’t completely taken out meat and dairy, but I have diminished the amounts greatly. I now only eat meat-based dishes when I eat at my parents’ home -and even then not always. Sometimes I still eat some dairy when I feel like it. But I never thought I’d be able to do it. The thing is, I think that foods like cheese are a bit addictive. After you’ve done a few weeks without it, you don’t even crave it anymore. It’s crazy! I now crave oven baked potatoes. Which, if you know me, you’d think is crazy. I’ve never been a huge fan of potatoes. 

I want to say lastly, that doctors always say you should keep your daily intake of dietary cholesterol below 150 mg. That way, you’ll have less risk of heart disease and such. If you eat a plant-based diet, a vegan diet, your daily intake is 0 mg. 

I think everyone should read this book. I will definitely look into the subject more! If there is a way to convince me to change my lifestyle, it is to come at me with scientific proof. Enough, statistically significant, and valid scientific proof.

Review: The China Study | An Eye-Opening Read on Nutrition and Food Habits

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